AFP charge Hunter Valley man Gerard Daniel Lazarus after allegedly impersonating teacher to groom teenage girl | #teacher | #children | #kids

The new provision came into effect last month and results in a presumption against bail, meaning the onus is on an offender to convince a court why they should be granted bail.

On Thursday investigators executed a search warrant at Mr Lazarus’s address, seizing two mobile phones, a laptop and an external hard drive.

Mr Lazarus was refused bail at Toronto Local Court on Friday. He is next scheduled to appear at the same court on September 15.

It will be alleged in court that Mr Lazarus initiated online communications with the girl, who shared details of personal feelings she had for one of her high school teachers.

With knowledge of the girl’s school, Mr Lazarus allegedly shaped the conversation to lead the young girl to believe he was in fact her teacher. He allegedly maintained the teacher’s persona while sharing sexualised text and explicit images.

The matter was referred to the AFP in September last year after the girl confronted her school teacher on a separate social media platform after graduating high school.

The teacher said he had no knowledge of the prior communications and denied all allegations. He subsequently reported the incident and it was referred to police.

Investigators are satisfied that the teacher had no involvement and will now approach him to assist with their ongoing investigation.

“The allegations we will present before the court are something we rarely encounter – the subterfuge involved in this offending is sinister and cruel,” said AFP Child Protection Operations Detective Sergeant Jarryd Dunbar.

“A juvenile girl has been groomed and exploited … while [the assumption] of an innocent man’s identity has resulted in serious damage to his personal and professional reputation.”

The AFP is also working to identify at least four other potential victims, after they allegedly discovered evidence Mr Lazarus had engaged in online conversations with other children under the age of 16.

Mr Lazarus is studying aerospace engineering part-time at the University of Newcastle. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment.

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